The San Diego Padres are flirting with the idea of beginning the season with a six-man pitching rotation.
Settling on an opening day starter, though, may not be as easy a decision for manager Bob Melvin.
With Joe Musgrove sidelined by a toe injury and Yu Darvish pitching for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, Melvin is exploring options that could include Blake Snell or Michael Wacha.
Musgrove, who's on the mend after dropping a weight on his left big toe, is set to throw a bullpen session Monday.
And while he has made progress in his recovery since having the nail taken off the toe, there's no guarantee he'll ready for the March 30 opener against the Colorado Rockies.
If Musgrove doesn't suffer a setback, though, there's a chance he could be inserted at the rear of the proposed six-man rotation the Padres are considering because they are scheduled to begin the season with a stretch of 24 games in 25 days.
"It is pretty amazing to me, but since he got the nail taken off the pain has subsided. It will be a bullpen (Monday) and we'll see where we go from there," Melvin said.
"We don't want to go too far and get a setback. If you are talking to him or talking to us, it's a little different story. He'd be pushing the envelope for opening day," Melvin added. "I still don't think that will be the case. We want to make sure he's not favoring it. He is going to fly back to San Diego to make sure he's sound and not favoring it."
Darvish figures to be worked into the back end of the rotation, too, because he is pitching for Japan in the WBC and potentially could start the deciding game on March 20.
"We're not sure what his timetable will be. It would have been one or the other (for opening day)," Melvin said. "Everything has been fine with his workload. We have no problem with that. Once you embrace the fact that they are there pitching for their country, there are some issues that you can't control."
A day after recording his first hits for the Padres since 2021, Fernando Tatis Jr. was not in the lineup on Sunday. He has a left knee contusion, however the Padres said it wasn't serious and could play Monday.
Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo didn't make the two-hour trip south from Tampa, Florida, to face the Red Sox in Fort Myers, after being scratched from the lineup Sunday due to back pain.
The defending AL East champions don't believe the problem is serious and think Rizzo could play again in the next few days. The left-handed hitting slugger has had recurring back problems during his career.
Rizzo, who received an epidural injection last season, conceded early in spring training that the back issues could continue.
"Anyone who's had back pain, it kind of comes out of nowhere." Rizzo said on Feb. 19. "You just do everything you can. This offseason, I really focused on recovery and feeling good the next day. I'd be crazy to sit here and say I won't have a back issue this year because every year it seems like a little something pops up. But I definitely feel confident with my daily preparation."
Rizzo hit .224 in 130 games last season, 41 points below his career average. He finished with 32 homers, 75 RBIs and a .338 on-base percentage.
New York Mets reliever Brooks Raley has been removed from Team USA at the World Baseball Classic after experiencing tightness in his left hamstring. The left-hander has returned to spring training in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The Mets do not consider the injury serious, however there's no definitive timetable for Raley's return.
Rule changes introducing a pitch timer, defensive shift restrictions and bigger bases for this year continue to draw favorable reviews from major league players, who say the rules are accomplishing a goal of speeding up the pace of games.
Entering Grapefruit and Cactus League play Sunday, 9-inning games were averaging just over two hours, 36 minutes, down from 3:00.46 last spring.
Meanwhile, teams collectively were batting .262, up from .243 last season. Runs per game were up, too, from 4.28 to 5.44.
"I think it's been good. More action. Shorter games," New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton said. "I'm not a huge fan of games ending on timing stuff, but I think that will get hashed out somehow."
Cincinnati's Joey Votto played in his first Cactus League game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.
Votto had surgery to repair the biceps and the rotator cuff in his left shoulder on Aug. 19.
"I knew it was getting close. I could tell by his mood. Up until yesterday, I didn't know what day it would be," Reds manager David Bell said. "He was getting live at-bats. It is still one day at a time, but the exciting part is we still have two weeks in spring training camp."
Votto missed the last 46 games of last season.
"I played in a couple sim games, but today there were no sim game options," Votto said. "I didn't want to go two days in a row without getting a live at-bat. It's been about three years since I've had a full camp. I feel like I'm more prepared this year than I have been for a while."
Spring training ended early due to COVID-19 in 2020, Votto was out with COVID in 2021 during spring training and last spring shortened by the CBA lockout.
"I'm going to need to accumulate some at-bats," he said. "I'm not worried about one game (opening day). I have 162 games to think about. I want to come out and be healthy for as much of the season as possible. I'm not 100%, in terms of game speed and playing well, however, I feel closer to good health.
"It was a complicated surgery and it's not easy to come back from. I've been in such good hands with the surgeons and physical therapists, strength coaches. I've had fantastic support. I am grateful for that. It is part of the experience of a professional athlete. You are going to get hurt. I didn't view it as a setback."
Adrian Sampson had a solid season as a starter for the Cubs last season, but he's realistic about where he fits in the team's plans this year.
Sampson started 25 games with the Cubs and finished with a 3.50 ERA in 138 2/3 innings. But the competition is heated with Marcus Stroman, Hayden Wesneski, Keegan Thompson, the return of Drew Smyly and newcomer Jameson Taillon. And then there's Kyle Hendricks, due back in May after rehabbing an injured pitching shoulder.
Sampson's numbers aren't great this spring, but he was pleased after Sunday's four-inning outing against Milwaukee in Mesa. Luke Voit and Brice Turang hit back-to-back homers in the second for the Brewers, but considering Sampson gave up 10 runs in his first 4 1/3 innings over two starts this spring, he'll take it.
"I was very happy," Sampson said after allowing six hits in four innings. He walked none and struck out three.
"I want to keep going, throw more innings so my arm feels great and I'm ready to get competing," Sampson said.
He hasn't concerned himself with his status, figuring that even after exclusively starting for the Cubs last year, he could easily move to relief.
"I can't control all that other stuff," Sampson said. "Luckily for me, I can kind of do whatever they ask. I can come out of the bullpen, I can start, whatever they want. Having a chance to win is the most important part."
AP freelance writers Gary Schatz and Jack Thompson contributed to this report.
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